Minus Stafford, Lions Prep for 49ers

The Detroit Lions reflect on Matthew Stafford's first year as they prepare for Sunday's visit to San Francisco.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:05 ET
GAMEDATE: 12/27/09
TV: FOX (Dick Stockton, Charles Davis)

PREDICTION: 49ers 30-17

KEYS TO THE GAME: 49ers QB Alex Smith has thrown 10 touchdowns in his past five games, and will take aim at the Lions' last-ranked pass defense. However, Detroit can't simply play back in the passing lanes because 49ers RB Frank Gore has responded with 274 rushing yards as he has reemerged in the offense the past two weeks. The Lions need to own time of possession, and RB Maurice Morris is coming off a 126-yard effort. Detroit won't have rookie QB Matthew Stafford back for the final two games after he was placed on injured reserve. Coach Jim Schwartz will go with veteran Daunte Culpepper or Drew Stanton, who took over for an ineffective Culpepper last Sunday.

FAST FACTS: Gore needs 58 rushing yards for his fourth consecutive 1,000-yard season. ... Lions S Louis Delmas is the first rookie in NFL history with a safety and interception and fumble returns for touchdowns in a season.


  • CB Phillip Buchanon has not practiced this week because of a shoulder injury, and his status for Sunday at San Francisco is uncertain.
  • LB Larry Foote has not practiced this week because of a foot injury, but that does not necessarily rule him out for Sunday.
  • S Louis Delmas did not practice Thursday after being limited by an ankle injury Wednesday. He is expected to play.
  • LS Don Muhlbach practiced fully Thursday after sitting out with a concussion.
  • LS Nathan Hodel was released.
  • WR Eric Fowler was signed from the practice squad.


  • WR Josh Morgan has played very well in the past month, as a receiver and a blocker. Morgan has 22 receptions for 174 yards and two touchdowns in the 49ers' past four games.
  • DE Justin Smith is having another solid all-around season. Smith is third on the team with 5.5 tackles for loss. Although he has just 2.5 sacks, Smith has been credited with a team-leading 66 quarterback pressures.
  • RB Frank Gore has rushed for 942 yards and seven touchdowns on 178 carries. He is just 58 yards from gaining 1,000 yards for the fourth year in succession. Gore became the first player in 49ers history last year to rush for 1,000 yards in three straight seasons.
  • TE Vernon Davis leads the 49ers with 69 catches for 858 yards and 11 touchdowns. He is closing in on the NFL record for most touchdown catches for a tight end. San Diego's Antonio Gates had 13 touchdown catches in 2004.
  • K Joe Nedney's season is over after sustaining a strain to his left hamstring on Sunday at Philadelphia. The 49ers signed Ricky Schmitt to take his place this week against the Detroit Lions.



The Lions have decided to end quarterback Matthew Stafford's rookie season and get a head start on 2010. They will put him on injured reserve and send him for clean-up surgery on his right knee Tuesday in Birmingham, Ala.

"There's no reason to wait," Stafford said. "I don't think it's going to be a big major thing at all."

Stafford, the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, reportedly suffered a partially dislocated right kneecap Oct. 4 at Chicago. After missing two games, he played through swelling and pain, knowing he would need surgery after the season.

Then Stafford suffered an AC joint separation in his left shoulder Nov. 22 against Cleveland. He didn't miss a snap until he aggravated the injury Dec. 6 at Cincinnati.

"He was really banged-up," offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. "The fact that he was out there said a lot about him. He wanted to help this team any way he could. Once he got to where he was not being able to be effective, he had to come to the realization (he couldn't play)."

When Stafford saw the doctors Wednesday, they ruled him out for the season finale Jan. 3 against Chicago because of the shoulder. Schwartz said the shoulder does not need surgery, but Stafford might as well have the knee surgery now. The doctors expect to him walk out of the operating room.

"It's not a repair," Schwartz said. "It's not anything other than a clean-out, because it's irritated. There's probably some little chunks in there or whatever that cause some swelling.

"That's stuff that you manage, but one thing you want to do is, you want to put that behind you. You don't want to have to manage that in the spring, next year, further along in your career."

Stafford will return to Detroit and be with the team for the conclusion of the season. He should be ready when the off-season conditioning program begins in March. The Lions expect a leap forward now that Stafford has 10 starts until his belt and will have a full off-season.

"You want to see some big strides made in the second year," Linehan said. "Obviously No. 1 is staying healthy. That's got to be a big part of his progress, too, because it's hard to really make that kind of progress when you've been banged-up."

Stafford completed 53.3 percent of his passes and threw for 2,267 yards. He threw 13 touchdowns and 20 interceptions.

"In general, we got a lot accomplished with the first year," Linehan said. "It wasn't mistake-free, but any rookie is going to go through that kind of a transformation. I really think you can't replace the experience he got. ... He's going to be a great quarterback for this franchise in the years to come, and we can start building a lot of things around him."


San Francisco 49ers coach Mike Singletary made the decision a month ago that veteran receiver Isaac Bruce could be of more assistance to the club on the sideline.

Now, with the 49ers are out of contention, and Bruce apparently has no desire to suit up on some kind of orchestrated ceremonial sendoff when the 49ers conclude the regular season Jan. 3 at the St. Louis Rams.

Bruce played his first 14 professional seasons with the Rams. He makes his offseason home in the St. Louis area, where he is still immensely popular with Rams fans.

"Maybe some other people might want to see it, but I think Isaac knows who he is," Singletary said. "And a final hurrah and all that stuff, I don't think it's that big to him. I think he's done his damage. He's done a great job. He's a great pro and a future Hall of Famer.

"We're just fortunate enough to have him in the capacity that we do, continuing to build into our young guys. That means the world to us."

Several weeks ago, Singletary determined the 49ers' best chance of winning was to push young receivers Michael Crabtree, Josh Morgan and Jason Hill to the forefront. That meant Bruce, 37, no longer had an on-field role.

Bruce has not practiced since catching one pass for 20 yards against the Packers at Lambeau Field. He has been listed on the injury report with an ankle injury. His 20-yard catch from Alex Smith in the middle of the fourth quarter will likely be the final reception of a storied career.

Bruce ranks second all-time behind Jerry Rice with 15,208 receiving yards. He ranks fifth in NFL history with 1,024 receptions, and his 91 receiving touchdowns is ninth all-time.

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